I was interested to read Neil Young’s ‘open letter’ to Spotify in which he told the streaming service they must choose between sharing his music on their platform or continue to give voice to the podcaster Joe Rogan.
Joe Rogan is, by some measure, the most successful podcaster in the world with a huge global audience far out seeding Young’s own popularity on the platform but that fact will not be lost on Young, an astute brain in the entertainment industry. So why do it?
Anyone familiar with Neil Young’s history will know he holds strong beliefs and has never shied away from expressing those regardless of the effect it might have on his own popularity. A keen environmentalist and campaigner for people’s rights he has written some of the great protest songs of the last century and now it seems, he has taken his fight to Covid.
I recently watched an interview with Young in which he stated he would not play live concerts whilst the risk of Covid remained for both his own safety and that of his fans. Young is in his seventies and, like his deal with Spotify does not need the income source which makes his decision financially if not emotionally easier and I applaud his honesty in making that choice. His rage at Rogan is centred on what he believes is the podcaster’s spreading of false information regarding the Covid vaccine and that is his call to make. Rogan’s show is watched by a global audience in the millions and is never short on criticism for some of the guests interviewed.
One person’s misinformation is another one’s alternative to the narrative and I believe in the freedom and intellect of the individual to make up their own mind on the information they are being given and to DE platform Rogan would, I believe, do more harm than good and as big a fan of Neil Young as I am (and I am) I cannot see Spotify siding with an artist whose commercial success has long since dwindled. So is this a calculated gamble by Young? Clearly he, like any other artist would like to see more revenue for their work and that will come far easier in the sale of physical goods and ticket sales than streaming revenue. Young also knows that his fans are, in the main very loyal and likely to buy his music on vinyl and CD and invest in other merchandise. They will buy his new music regardless.
New and younger potential listeners are far more likely to look at his most popular songs through a streaming service before possibly investing and for him to lose that publicity stream is obviously a gamble he is prepared to take. He’s not adverse to taking on Spotify having previously removed his music at his concern over the sound quality only to relent sometime later. Rogan, a man used to criticism over his remarks on Covid is unlikely to be fazed by Young’s letter which, since I began writing this post has now been removed from Young’s website!
So will this spat fizzle out or will he be true to his word and remove his music once again? Personally it will not affect me as I have many of his vinyl records but we must now accept that the likes of Spotify are/is the future of the music industry and Young’s work is an important part in American music history and deserves its place on the platform for new listeners to hear and appreciate. Equally I believe in the importance of debate and long interviews a la Rogan et al as opposed to two minutes of soundbites in order for we, the consumer to fully inform ourselves. In the meantime I’m off to put my copy of Harvest on the turntable….
Categories: The Music Lounge